Memories (2005)

This book is a collection of two books, Memories of Outer Space and Memories of Other Times, which are both in turn collections of short comics illustrated by Enki Bilal. Bilal is a European comic creator who was born in Yugoslavia but brought up in Paris. His best known works are probably the Nikopol and the Beast trilogies.

For all but six of the stories, Bilal is also the writer as well as illustrator. The stories all date from 1972 – 1981 and vary in length from a single page to 10 pages but with most being done about 3-5 pages in length. Thematically the stories tend to fall into three categories – space opera, near future and horror – and can be serious or comic.

As with most collections there is a variability in quality in the story telling but, in the main, the art is exceptional and a good illustration of the European style. For myself, I tended to prefer the grander SF/space opera stories rather than the horror ones in this collection but found myself frustrated by the short length of the stories and longing for a meatier story to sink myself into. But nevertheless an interesting collection worthy of investigation if you have never come across Bilal’s work before.

Real Lies (2006)

 

Quote:
“Robots will surely signal the end of the world for all humans.”

 

Something a bit different this time. Real Lies is a collection of short stories by writer and artist Lee Si Young and is Korean Manhwa. Manwha is obviously a close relation to Japanese Manga as the styles are very similar – or at least they are in this case which is my first exposure to it.

The first story, How Martians conquer the Earth, centres around a young woman, Si-Ra, whose boyfriend has disappeared. Feeling like the world has ended she does her best to carry on  until one day out of the blue he returns. But there is something odd about him as with many other so-called Return Men. Why are the whites of their eyes blue and why do so many of them tell the same story to explain their disappearance?

In the world of Is it really impossible?, a virus has meant that no male children are born naturally only the occasional  female. Naturally born females are known as Goddesses and cloned men are either Dominants (males who can reproduce) or Recessives (men who live as women). Mi-no is a dominant who wants more from his brief relationships with the Goddesses – tired of being treated like a stud he craves female friendship.

The final story, Science Fiction Story, sees Yoon-Kyung taking delivery of a new rental robot. But she is surprised and disconcerted by how human it looks. As they are forced to spend time together, she becomes increasingly curious and frustrated by the robot and it human qualities.

This is a quite interesting collection of stories. They remind me a little of the Vertigo book Demo by Brian Wood and Becky Cloonan. Delicate tales of love and loss but with a slight horrific or science fictional quirk in the background. These stories are more upfront about the science fictional elements but just as interesting.  The art is a bit rough in places but no more so than in some other Manga titles. I took a chance on this book as it was in a sale and it was certainly worth a look. Although she has written other books, from a quick investigation, it does not seem like any others have been translated into English.

Fairest #1-6 (2012)

 

Quote:
“I smell a rat! No, I smell whatever sort of vermin a rat smells when he smells a rat!”

 

The recent publication of issue 6 of Fairest marks the end of the first story. Fairest is the latest spinoff from Fables and will focus on the female characters in the original series. This first story was written by the main man himself, Fables creator Bill Willingham. The truly fabulous interior art was pencilled by Phil Jimenez and inked mainly by Andy Lanning with some help along the way from Mark Farmer and Andrew Pepoy. The fantastic covers were by Adam Hughes. The wraparound cover to issue 1 shown above features mainly easily recognisable characters to regular readers of Fables but there were a few I did not recognise.

The story follows on from the abduction of the Snow Queen and Briar Rose by a goblin army from the Empire’s capital city in Fables #107. Ali Baba is looting the city when he comes across a minor bottle imp in a bottle. Although not able to grant him three wishes, the bottle imp promises to use his skills to guide him to vast wealth. He is led to the goblin camp where he frees Briar Rose with a kiss and both find that true love is hard to find and hold on to – even with seven fairy godmothers on your side.

This is an excellent start to the new series. Willingham has produced yet another fabulous tale from his winning formula of retelling classic fairy tales and updating the characters involved. This story focuses on true love and loss but is also a tale of revenge and redemption and is bound to be an instant hit with fans of the main series. It is also the perfect introduction for those who have missed out on Fables and don’t want to play catch-up or commit to the longer story arcs.

With the conclusion of the first arc, the series is being opened out to other creators for their take on these characters. The proposed format reminds me of the Legends of the Dark Knight comic that also featured standalone tales from different creative teams. Issue 7 is to be a single issue story by Matthew Sturges and Shawn McManus which is to be followed by another six issue story featuring Rapunzel by Lauren Beukes and Inaki Miranda. While I am excited about some of the new writers and artists involved – I am looking forward to seeing more of Inaki Miranda’s work after Fables #99 – I am slightly worried that the quality may vary with the introduction of writers new to the characters.

Having said that, this first arc has left me excited for the future of the series and it is worth picking up when it is collected – sometime after the publication of issue 7 which will also be included in the TPB.

Jonny Double (2002)

 

Quote:
“You kids’re talkin’ about robbing a bank!”

“No, we’re talkin’ about goin’ to get a dead guy’s money.”

 

This book collects the four issue mini-series that was the first collaboration between writer Brian Azzarello and artist Eduardo Risso. This was the start of a successful partnership that has since produced 100 Bullets, the current Spaceman and some Batman stories.

Jonny Double is an ex-cop turned private investigator whose latest client has just turned up dead. The down on his luck Jonny is then hired by a mysterious Mr. Hart to find out what crowd his daughter, Faith, is running with and to keep her out of trouble. Everything seems fine until he is persuaded to impersonate the son of Al Brown (AKA Al Capone) to close out his daddy’s inactive bank account. However, the account is not as inactive as the Faith’s crew think and instead of scoring $300,000 they lift $7 million. Jonny’s world goes downhill fast as the kids start turning up dead and Jonny has to protect Faith from a legendary hit man.

This is an excellent book from Azzarello and Risso. A modern day noir crime caper with all the elements one might expect including a dumb PI falling for deadly femme fatale. Some of the parts of the story might be a bit too clichéd but the quality of the writing and art is such that you drawn along into the twisted narrative completely. There are enough red herrings to keep you guessing throughout the story and the ending neatly wraps up all the threads from Jonny’s past and present. The only thing that slightly jarred for me was Jonny’s speech patterns which were infused with 60s beatnik/hipster figures of speech. But otherwise this fabulous book should appeal to fans of 100 Bullets if they haven’t read it already.

Steve Niles’ Cellar of Nastiness (2005)

This book is a collection of one-shots from writer Steve Niles, who is probably best known for co-creating the 30 Days of Night series.

 

The first story, Hyde is a modern reworking of the Jekyll and Hyde story. In this version, two brothers are close to creating a new anti-depressant drug but when their funding gets cut they decide to test the latest batch of the drug on themselves. After they awake from a blackout, they discover that the man responsible for shutting them down has been brutally murdered along with his family. The drug proves addictive but each use results in a trail of bloody mayhem – but who is too blame?

This first story was pretty good but, even as one of the longest in the book, was too short for me. I would have liked more on the relationship between the brothers and their transformed characters. The art by Nick Stakal was OK on this story. It reminded me a lot of Ted McKeever but not quite as good and the quality of the art varied quite a lot from page to page.

The second story is called The Very Big Monster Show. Theo is a boy who loves the classic movie monsters but in his father’s costume shop the children are all going wild for the newer horror movie monsters. Just at Hallowe’en, Theo stumbles across an old house inhabited by the classic monsters – Dracula, Frankenstein, Wolfman, the Mummy and the creature from the Black Lagoon – who are sitting around moping about how no-one finds them scary anymore. But Theo’s belief in them encourages them to have one more go at being frightening.

This is quite a heartwarming tale of belief and courage with faith being rewarded in the end. It is also nostalgic for the lost era of movie monsters and the thrills they caused rather than than the easy gore laden shocks of the modern monsters. It could almost be a children’s tale if it wasn’t for the content. The illustrations by Butch Adams are very nice and are in a children’s picture book style.

The third part of the book was originally published by IDW as Horrorcide and features four short horror tales. The first two are stories in the same vein as the Future Shock tales from 2000AD. But the best one is a tale of revenge from beyond the grave where a repentant gang member is not forgiven by the family he helped murder. It also features some nice black and white art from Josh Medors.

As with most compilation books this is a mixed bag but I think it has enough goodies to make it worth a read.

Kick-Ass 2 (2012)

 

Quote:
“Again with the f-bombs! What is it with young people these days?”

 

This book collects the second seven part mini-series from the same creative team of Mark Millar and John Romita, Jr. The thing to say straight up is that the back of this book has an infographic that states that this is book 3 of a projected 5 book Kick-Ass arc. Well thanks for the heads up on that Mark and Millarworld – the only other place it is mentioned is on the facing page to the last page in the story.

The actual book 2 of the arc is the current, and so currently uncollected, Hit-Girl mini-series. This will now have to be treated by me as a flashback. Any dramatic tension created in that story could now well be compromised since there is a likelihood that it will be spoiled by knowing the events in Kick-Ass 2. Hopefully this will not be the case but you, dear reader, may wish to hold off reading this book until after the collection of Hit-Girl.

As for the book itself, it carries on in the same vein as book one with more extreme, bloody violence and foul language. In the aftermath of the events in book one, Dave and Mindy’s lives have gone separate ways. While Dave is living the dream as Kick-Ass, Mindy has retired Hit-Girl under the watchful eye of her cop step-father. Millar cranks up the tension with the introduction of super-teams and super-villains – not everyone wants to do good. While the cops seemed content to stand back in the first book when only gangs were getting whacked, the situation changes in this book when a team of super-villains cause a massacre in a quiet suburban district.

If you liked the first book then you will probably like this as it is more of the same. The depth of Dave’s obsession with being Kick-Ass is tested to the full by the events in this book. Perhaps his actions are being dictated by the things that happen around him but how he must wish that he had hung up his costume after his first patrol. I look forward to seeing what Millar has planned for Dave and Mindy now.

Kick-Ass (2010)

 

Quote:
“Would you give me a hug? My daddy just died.”

 

This book collects the first eight part mini-series and was written by Mark Millar, the Scottish writer probably best known for the Ultimates or the Civil War event for Marvel. The art was by John Romita, Jr. who has mostly worked on various Marvel characters.

Kick-Ass tells the story of Dave Lizewski, a high school kid who dreams of becoming a superhero like the ones he reads about in his comic books. Dave decides to act on his desires and roams the streets looking for action but soon regrets it when he ends up stabbed, beaten and the victim of a hit and run. Several months and operations later and Dave can’t keep away from the streets but small successes only bring him to the attention of larger predators.

This book features some of the trademark excesses of language and violence that Millar is known for in his creator owned work and so won’t be for everyone. It is a brutal examination of the reality of vigilantism where the criminal underclass are not a superstitious and cowardly lot to be frightened by a man in a suit and the crime lords will move quickly to end anything that is interrupting their business activities. Dave finds that the high ideals held by the comic book heroes are soon abandoned in real life when he becomes associated with another pair of well trained vigilantes targeting crime boss John Genovese. The tipping point for most people I suppose will be the character Hit-Girl – a well trained 10 year old girl who wields deadly katanas to dish out bloody violence while spouting foul language. Even given the comic book nature of the story it is hard to imagine any father turning a young girl into the violent figure of revenge that is presented in this book. But if you can accept that then this is an excellent book.